Lisa Toms

Children's Meditation Facilitator and artist,

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Transferable Modular School Design

Under Accommodation Review Committees (ARC) in N. America, there is a pandemic in that schools are being shut down due to school board accounting + economics, low and projected low populations, amalgamated to larger populated schools and re-built for 15M+ only to be targeted to close 10 years down the road due to low projected numbers again.
An idea that would step us into and flex with the unknown of this 21st century and where education will be going is Transferable Modular Schools.
A main hub to accommodate every school: library/resource, administration office(s), bathrooms, gymnasium, staff room and then with a common corridor surrounding this 'pie-shaped' or flowing design allowing modular classrooms to connect to the corridor (Think Lego meets octopus). Each hub will then have enough modular classrooms connected to satisfy the current school population and when it is determined that numbers are low then the modular classroom is removed and delivered to another school with like system for their population growth. If that school needs more or less they add on or remove. The school board that implements this innovative system continues to work economically and maintains a current line of tightening their bottom line. No more bricks and mortar buildings but a system that flexes with the school community population, will not break down a community due to a school closure, allows for local business to support the modular design and encourages sustainability for education and environment. A second life for this design if it reaches that point could be for nursing homes or short term job-sites. Please offer any thoughts or ideas.

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    Apr 2 2013: This seems like a variation of how many schools now use "the portables." Schools have a fixed campus but accomodate extra needs with temporary buildings that can be moved if a permanent expansion is built or if school population goes down.

    Public and private schools use these.

    Now that I think of it, this strategy has been used for a very long time, as I distinctly remember my "homeroom" when I was in high school in the 60s was in such a temporary module. It was a science portable.

    In my experience these portables would have had no reason to connect with a physical interface to the main campus buildings. Schools often have multiple buildings, and people walk among them.
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      Apr 2 2013: Thank you for your input Fritzie. The idea of the stand-alone portable you talk about has been used in high frequency here and subjects children to many unhealthy aspects of a long-term portable situation. There is a local school here that now has 9-11 portables housing classrooms. The idea is to connect the classrooms to a main established hub and flex with varying populations as needed within the Board system.
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        Apr 2 2013: The portables at the schools with which I am familiar were not considered less appealing or well-outfitted than the classrooms in the main buildings. Perhaps this varies from place to place.
        But I do love the modular, or otherwise flexible, idea.
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          Apr 4 2013: Hello and thank you for your input again Fritzie. Please know it's not about appealing or optics but about enabling smaller rural schools and smaller urban schools to remain open through this exchangeable design system and maintain their school community and remain vital in the community. The benefits of a smaller school are strongly supported and instead of cutting costs by closing schools and building mega schools in our region we need to encourage the school boards to maintain smaller schools under a different paradigm. The schools that are projected to be built will be below capacity in 10 yrs and again will have to be assessed under an ARC and possibly closed. That's a lot of chasing ones tail instead of looking to the present/future and develop better ways to use a school. I also believe from all the wonderful discussion out there in TED talks and elsewhere that our school structure needs to change to fit the facilitating children, the cloud, the global education etc... Schools no longer need to be dinosaurs in the horizon.
  • Apr 4 2013: When I read your idea, I had the same thought as Fritzie...portables!

    A different perspective on this might be a series or remote classrooms, such as old historic sites, government buildings, research centers, medical buildings, factories, farms, zoos, etc. This would be a more tangible learning experience, but would create some logistic issues. Perhaps some of these experiences could be supplemented with on-line interactive experiences for those that could not get to the on-site training centers.

    There are other aspects to a primary education involving social interaction, personal development and maturity, and several other things that are not purely academic. I think they are part of the primary learning experience and probably enhanced by a large school environment vs a home school or more individual based educational experience. Maybe some of the teachers will comment on this aspect of child development. The more individual the educational experience though, the more individual attention will be needed by a teacher, parent or adult mentor to see that lessons are being learned as intended. This increase in adult participation will either create an increased demand for teacher time or place an additional burden on parents. Personally, I think parents should welcome this opportunity, but there are many families that rely on two incomes to make ends meet that would struggle with this concept. I guess it would not be for everybody.
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      Apr 4 2013: Thank you Robert for this input. I was remiss in my opening idea to state that I am aware of portables and they have been used and are used and so on. This idea specifically came from a pending closure of 3 smaller rural schools folding into a fourth with then the need for portables to house the overflow with a speculation of building a mega school in 2015 if we are so lucky to receive government funding at such time. 3 schools definitely require retrofitting will then sit idle during this 'honeymoon' time. The accounting to close the schools are based on projections of declining enrolment and the build of a new school is based on the day of. 2 different types of accounting to suit reason; it's like having an accountant in Greece and another in Canada.
      I really like your idea of remote classrooms, I can only imagine how wonderful this experience could be. This area is under the greenbelt legislation and growth is especially hard but there are a lot of old buildings looking for a new life.
      Our provincial Ministry of Education has worked towards smaller classrooms - 20 students and we find it does give back more to the student, to their relationships and their growth. Parents should always be dovetailing their children's education, if not leading it. I invite more thoughts and ideas.